Why Isn’t God Answering My Prayer?

Lysa TerKeurst

Day: 1 | Plan: 1-2 Samuel

Today’s Reading: 1 Samuel 1

1 Samuel 1:6 (NIV) “Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival kept provoking her in order to irritate her.”

Have you ever cried over something so much that you run out of tears? Your swollen eyes just give out and dry up while a current of unrest still gushes through your soul. And you look up toward heaven in utter frustration.

Me too.

And there’s someone in the Bible who was right there as well.

She felt provoked and irritated. Her anguish was so intense that she wept and would not eat. Before the Lord, she cried out in bitterness of soul, LORD Almighty, if you will only look on your servant’s misery and remember me, and not forget your servant . . . then I will . . .” (1 Samuel 1:11).

These words describe and articulate the deep distress of a woman from thousands of years ago, and yet here I sit today and relate so completely. They are from the woman named Hannah found in 1 Samuel 1.

Hannah’s tears over her empty womb were made even more painful by her husband’s other wife, Peninnah. She had many sons and daughters and made sure to rub this fact in Hannah’s face every chance she got. In classic mean-girl style, Peninnah’s actions targeted Hannah in her weakest place. “Because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb, her rival [Peninnah] kept provoking her in order to irritate her” (1 Samuel 1:6).

There’s a common thread that weaves through Hannah’s story, and yours and mine. We can all be found desperately wanting something that we see the Lord giving to other women. We see Him blessing them in the very areas He’s withholding from us. And while these other women may not be obnoxious like Peninnah in their reminders of their blessing and our lack, it’s increasingly painful each time we see a reminder. We look at them, and we feel set aside.

Why them? Why not me?

Then the seemingly unjust silence from God ushers us from a disturbed heart to weeping with bitterness of soul. And we start to feel something deep inside that comes in conflict with everything we hold true: If God is good, why isn’t He being good to me in this?

And in this moment of raw soul honesty, we’re forced to admit we feel a bit suspicious of God. We’ve done all we know to do. We’ve prayed all we know to pray. We’ve stood on countless promises with a brave face. And still nothing.

So what do we do when we feel set aside? What do we do when our heart is struggling to make peace between God’s ability to change hard things and His apparent decision not to change them for us?

We do what Hannah did. We keep pressing in.

Instead of taking matters into her own hands, Hannah took her requests to God. Instead of pulling away from Him in suspicion, she pressed in ever closer, filling the space of her wait with prayer.

And she didn’t pray your everyday, ordinary kind of prayer. We see in 1 Samuel 1 that Hannah seized an opportunity to pray with unprecedented passion. When Hannah traveled with her husband, Elkanah, on his yearly journey to the tabernacle to worship and sacrifice, she did something no other woman in the Old Testament is mentioned doing. She took the liberty to pray an individual prayer inside the tabernacle. Hannah’s action was so bold and her prayers so passionate that Eli, the high priest, accused her of being drunk! (1 Samuel 1:13-14)

Oh, how I love her unflinching faith. Where her barrenness and her mistreatment by Penninah could have caused Hannah to completely lose heart, she refused to be deterred from trusting in God. She possessed a faith that was not contingent upon her circumstances but based on what she knew to be true about her good and faithful God.

And in a matter of four verses (1 Samuel 1:17–20), her cries of anguish gave way to the cries of her newborn son. Of course, 1 Samuel 1:20 uses very clear words to let us know Hannah’s answer didn’t come right away. It happened in the course of time. “So in the course of time Hannah became pregnant and gave birth to a son.”

Samuel was born in God’s perfect timing. And the timing of his birth was imperative because Samuel was destined to play an integral role in the transition from the time of the judges to the eventual establishment of kingship for the Israelites.

God hadn’t made Hannah wait to punish her. He hadn’t been callous or indifferent to her cries. And He’s not ignoring those of us waiting either.

God loves us too much to answer our prayer at any other time than the right time. 

Is there a prayer you’ve been waiting on God to answer for so long that you’re just about ready to give up? Keep pressing in to Him, friend. Don’t pull away. Fill the space where your heart aches with prayer, trusting that in the course of time everything will work out according to God’s perfect plan.

Prayer: Father God, thank You so much for reminding me today that You are not ignoring me. You hear every cry of my heart. Will You please help me in the waiting? Help me trust Your perfect timing. Help me remember that Your plan is grander than anything I could ever come up with on my own. And help me continually choose to press in to You—especially when I feel tempted to pull away. In Jesus’ name, amen. 

More Moments:

Hannah, the barren wife of Elkanah who longed for a child, knew the key to contentment. Yes, you... Read More

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